“What a marvelous, sweet and unhappy woman!” he was thinking, as he stepped out into the frosty air with Stepan Arkadyevitch.
“Well, didn’t I tell you?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, seeing that Levin had been completely won over.
“Yes,” said Levin dreamily, “an extraordinary woman! It’s not her cleverness, but she has such wonderful depth of feeling. I’m awfully sorry for her!”
“Now, please God, everything will soon be settled. Well, well, don’t be hard on people in future,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, opening the carriage door. “Good-bye; we don’t go the same way.”
Still thinking of Anna, of everything, even the simplest phrase in their conversation with her, and recalling the minutest changes in her expression, entering more and more into her position, and feeling sympathy for her, Levin reached home.
At home Kouzma told Levin that Katerina Alexandrovna was quite well, and that her sisters had not long been gone, and he handed him two letters. Levin read them at once in the hall, that he might not overlook them later. One was from Sokolov, his bailiff. Sokolov wrote that the corn could not be sold, that it was fetching only five and a half roubles, and that more than that could not be got for it. The other letter was from his sister. She scolded him for her business being still unsettled.
“Well, we must sell it at five and a half if we can’t get more,” Levin decided the first question, which had always before seemed such a weighty one, with extraordinary facility on the spot. “It’s extraordinary how all one’s time is taken up here,” he thought, considering the second letter. He felt himself to blame for not having got done what his sister had asked him to do for her. “Today, again, I’ve not been to the court, but today I’ve certainly not had time.” And resolving that he would not fail to do it next day, he went up to his wife. As he went in, Levin rapidly ran through mentally the day he had spent. All the events of the day were conversations, conversations he had heard and taken part in. All the conversations were upon subjects which, if he had been alone at home, he would never have taken up, but here they were very interesting. And all these conversations were right enough, only in two places there was something not quite right. One was what he had said about the carp, the other was something not “quite the thing” in the tender sympathy he was feeling for Anna.
Levin found his wife low-spirited and dull. The dinner of the three sisters had gone off very well, but then they had waited and waited for him, all of them had felt dull, the sisters had departed, and she had been left alone.
“Well, and what have you been doing?” she asked him, looking straight into his eyes, which shone with rather a suspicious brightness. But that she might not prevent his telling her everything, she concealed her close scrutiny of him, and with an approving smile listened to his account of how he had spent the evening.
“Well, I’m very glad I met Vronsky. I felt quite at ease and natural with him. You understand, I shall try not to see him, but I’m glad that this awkwardness is all over,” he said, and remembering that by way of trying not to see him, he had immediately gone to call on Anna, he blushed. “We talk about the peasants drinking; I don’t know which drinks most, the peasantry or our own class; the peasants do on holidays, but....”
But Kitty took not the slightest interest in discussing the drinking habits of the peasants. She saw that he blushed, and she wanted to know why.
“Well, and then where did you go?”
“Stiva urged me awfully to go and see Anna Arkadyevna.”
And as he said this, Levin blushed even more, and his doubts as to whether he had done right in going to see Anna were settled once for all. He knew now that he ought not to have done so.
Kitty’s eyes opened in a curious way and gleamed at Anna’s name, but controlling herself with an effort, she concealed her emotion and deceived him.
“Oh!” was all she said.
“I’m sure you won’t be angry at my going. Stiva begged me to, and Dolly wished it,” Levin went on.
“Oh, no!” she said, but he saw in her eyes a constraint that boded him no good.
“She is a very sweet, very, very unhappy, good woman,” he said, telling her about Anna, her occupations, and what she had told him to say to her.
“Yes, of course, she is very much to be pitied,” said Kitty, when he had finished. “Whom was your letter from?”
He told her, and believing in her calm tone, he went to change his coat.
Coming back, he found Kitty in the same easy chair. When he went up to her, she glanced at him and broke into sobs.
“What? what is it?” he asked, knowing beforehand what.
“You’re in love with that hateful woman; she has bewitched you! I saw it in your eyes. Yes, yes! What can it all lead to? You were drinking at the club, drinking and gambling, and then you went ... to her of all people! No, we must go away.... I shall go away tomorrow.”
It was a long while before Levin could soothe his wife. At last he succeeded in calming her, only by confessing that a feeling of pity, in conjunction with the wine he had drunk, had been too much for him, that he had succumbed to Anna’s artful influence, and that he would avoid her. One thing he did with more sincerity confess to was that living so long in Moscow, a life of nothing but conversation, eating and drinking, he was degenerating. They talked till three o’clock in the morning. Only at three o’clock were they sufficiently reconciled to be able to go to sleep.
After taking leave of her guests, Anna did not sit down, but began walking up and down the room. She had unconsciously the whole evening done her utmost to arouse in Levin a feeling of love—as of late she had fallen into doing with all young men—and she knew she had attained her aim, as far as was possible in one evening, with a married and conscientious man. She liked him indeed extremely, and, in spite of the striking difference, from the masculine point of view, between Vronsky and Levin, as a woman she saw something they had in common, which had made Kitty able to love both. Yet as soon as he was out of the room, she ceased to think of him.
One thought, and one only, pursued her in different forms, and refused to be shaken off. “If I have so much effect on others, on this man, who loves his home and his wife, why is it he is so cold to me?... not cold exactly, he loves me, I know that! But something new is drawing us apart now. Why wasn’t he here all the evening? He told Stiva to say he could not leave Yashvin, and must watch over his play. Is Yashvin a child? But supposing it’s true. He never tells a lie. But there’s something else in it if it’s true. He is glad of an opportunity of showing me that he has other duties; I know that, I submit to that. But why prove that to me? He wants to show me that his love for me is not to interfere with his freedom. But I need no proofs, I need love. He ought to understand all the bitterness of this life for me here in Moscow. Is this life? I am not living, but waiting for an event, which is continually put off and put off. No answer again! And Stiva says he cannot go to Alexey Alexandrovitch. And I can’t write again. I can do nothing, can begin nothing, can alter nothing; I hold myself in, I wait, inventing amusements for myself—the English family, writing, reading—but it’s all nothing but a sham, it’s all the same as morphine. He ought to feel for me,” she said, feeling tears of self-pity coming into her eyes.
She heard Vronsky’s abrupt ring and hurriedly dried her tears—not only dried her tears, but sat down by a lamp and opened a book, affecting composure. She wanted to show him that she was displeased that he had not come home as he had promised—displeased only, and not on any account to let him see her distress, and least of all, her self-pity. She might pity herself, but he must not pity her. She did not want strife, she blamed him for wanting to quarrel, but unconsciously put herself into an attitude of antagonism.
“Well, you’ve not been dull?” he said, eagerly and good-humoredly, going up to her. “What a terrible passion it is—gambling!”
“No, I’ve not been dull; I’ve learned long ago not to be dull. Stiva has been here and Levin.”
“Yes, they meant to come and see you. Well, how did you like Levin?” he said, sitting down beside her.
“Very much. They have not long been gone. What was Yashvin doing?”
“He was winning—seventeen thousand. I got him away. He had really started home, but he went back again, and now he’s losing.”
“Then what did you stay for?” she asked, suddenly lifting her eyes to him. The expression of her face was cold and ungracious. “You told Stiva you were staying on to get Yashvin away. And you have left him there.”
The same expression of cold readiness for the conflict appeared on his face too.
“In the first place, I did not ask him to give you any message; and secondly, I never tell lies. But what’s the chief point, I wanted to stay, and I stayed,” he said, frowning. “Anna, what is it for, why will you?” he said after a moment’s silence, bending over towards her, and he opened his hand, hoping she would lay hers in it.
She was glad of this appeal for tenderness. But some strange force of evil would not let her give herself up to her feelings, as though the rules of warfare would not permit her to surrender.
“Of course you wanted to stay, and you stayed. You do everything you want to. But what do you tell me that for? With what object?” she said, getting more and more excited. “Does anyone contest your rights? But you want to be right, and you’re welcome to be right.”
His hand closed, he turned away, and his face wore a still more obstinate expression.
“For you it’s a matter of obstinacy,” she said, watching him intently and suddenly finding the right word for that expression that irritated her, “simply obstinacy. For you it’s a question of whether you keep the upper hand of me, while for me....” Again she felt sorry for herself, and she almost burst into tears. “If you knew what it is for me! When I feel as I do now that you are hostile, yes, hostile to me, if you knew what this means for me! If you knew how I feel on the brink of calamity at this instant, how afraid I am of myself!” And she turned away, hiding her sobs.
“But what are you talking about?” he said, horrified at her expression of despair, and again bending over her, he took her hand and kissed it. “What is it for? Do I seek amusements outside our home? Don’t I avoid the society of women?”
“Well, yes! If that were all!” she said.
“Come, tell me what I ought to do to give you peace of mind? I am ready to do anything to make you happy,” he said, touched by her expression of despair; “what wouldn’t I do to save you from distress of any sort, as now, Anna!” he said.
“It’s nothing, nothing!” she said. “I don’t know myself whether it’s the solitary life, my nerves.... Come, don’t let us talk of it. What about the race? You haven’t told me!” she inquired, trying to conceal her triumph at the victory, which had anyway been on her side.
He asked for supper, and began telling her about the races; but in his tone, in his eyes, which became more and more cold, she saw that he did not forgive her for her victory, that the feeling of obstinacy with which she had been struggling had asserted itself again in him. He was colder to her than before, as though he were regretting his surrender. And she, remembering the words that had given her the victory, “how I feel on the brink of calamity, how afraid I am of myself,” saw that this weapon was a dangerous one, and that it could not be used a second time. And she felt that beside the love that bound them together there had grown up between them some evil spirit of strife, which she could not exorcise from his, and still less from her own heart.
There are no conditions to which a man cannot become used, especially if he sees that all around him are living in the same way. Levin could not have believed three months before that he could have gone quietly to sleep in the condition in which he was that day, that leading an aimless, irrational life, living too beyond his means, after drinking to excess (he could not call what happened at the club anything else), forming inappropriately friendly relations with a man with whom his wife had once been in love, and a still more inappropriate call upon a woman who could only be called a lost woman, after being fascinated by that woman and causing his wife distress—he could still go quietly to sleep. But under the influence of fatigue, a sleepless night, and the wine he had drunk, his sleep was sound and untroubled.
At five o’clock the creak of a door opening waked him. He jumped up and looked round. Kitty was not in bed beside him. But there was a light moving behind the screen, and he heard her steps.
“What is it?... what is it?” he said, half-asleep. “Kitty! What is it?”
“Nothing,” she said, coming from behind the screen with a candle in her hand. “I felt unwell,” she said, smiling a particularly sweet and meaning smile.
“What? has it begun?” he said in terror. “We ought to send....” and hurriedly he reached after his clothes.
“No, no,” she said, smiling and holding his hand. “It’s sure to be nothing. I was rather unwell, only a little. It’s all over now.”
And getting into bed, she blew out the candle, lay down and was still. Though he thought her stillness suspicious, as though she were holding her breath, and still more suspicious the expression of peculiar tenderness and excitement with which, as she came from behind the screen, she said “nothing,” he was so sleepy that he fell asleep at once. Only later he remembered the stillness of her breathing, and understood all that must have been passing in her sweet, precious heart while she lay beside him, not stirring, in anticipation of the greatest event in a woman’s life. At seven o’clock he was waked by the touch of her hand on his shoulder, and a gentle whisper. She seemed struggling between regret at waking him, and the desire to talk to him.
“Kostya, don’t be frightened. It’s all right. But I fancy.... We ought to send for Lizaveta Petrovna.”
The candle was lighted again. She was sitting up in bed, holding some knitting, which she had been busy upon during the last few days.
“Please, don’t be frightened, it’s all right. I’m not a bit afraid,” she said, seeing his scared face, and she pressed his hand to her bosom and then to her lips.
He hurriedly jumped up, hardly awake, and kept his eyes fixed on her, as he put on his dressing gown; then he stopped, still looking at her. He had to go, but he could not tear himself from her eyes. He thought he loved her face, knew her expression, her eyes, but never had he seen it like this. How hateful and horrible he seemed to himself, thinking of the distress he had caused her yesterday. Her flushed face, fringed with soft curling hair under her night cap, was radiant with joy and courage.
Though there was so little that was complex or artificial in Kitty’s character in general, Levin was struck by what was revealed now, when suddenly all disguises were thrown off and the very kernel of her soul shone in her eyes. And in this simplicity and nakedness of her soul, she, the very woman he loved in her, was more manifest than ever. She looked at him, smiling; but all at once her brows twitched, she threw up her head, and going quickly up to him, clutched his hand and pressed close up to him, breathing her hot breath upon him. She was in pain and was, as it were, complaining to him of her suffering. And for the first minute, from habit, it seemed to him that he was to blame. But in her eyes there was a tenderness that told him that she was far from reproaching him, that she loved him for her sufferings. “If not I, who is to blame for it?” he thought unconsciously, seeking someone responsible for this suffering for him to punish; but there was no one responsible. She was suffering, complaining, and triumphing in her sufferings, and rejoicing in them, and loving them. He saw that something sublime was being accomplished in her soul, but what? He could not make it out. It was beyond his understanding.
“I have sent to mamma. You go quickly to fetch Lizaveta Petrovna ... Kostya!... Nothing, it’s over.”
She moved away from him and rang the bell.
“Well, go now; Pasha’s coming. I am all right.”
And Levin saw with astonishment that she had taken up the knitting she had brought in in the night and begun working at it again.
As Levin was going out of one door, he heard the maid-servant come in at the other. He stood at the door and heard Kitty giving exact directions to the maid, and beginning to help her move the bedstead.
He dressed, and while they were putting in his horses, as a hired sledge was not to be seen yet, he ran again up to the bedroom, not on tiptoe, it seemed to him, but on wings. Two maid-servants were carefully moving something in the bedroom.
Kitty was walking about knitting rapidly and giving directions.
“I’m going for the doctor. They have sent for Lizaveta Petrovna, but I’ll go on there too. Isn’t there anything wanted? Yes, shall I go to Dolly’s?”
She looked at him, obviously not hearing what he was saying.
“Yes, yes. Do go,” she said quickly, frowning and waving her hand to him.
He had just gone into the drawing-room, when suddenly a plaintive moan sounded from the bedroom, smothered instantly. He stood still, and for a long while he could not understand.
“Yes, that is she,” he said to himself, and clutching at his head he ran downstairs.
“Lord have mercy on us! pardon us! aid us!” he repeated the words that for some reason came suddenly to his lips. And he, an unbeliever, repeated these words not with his lips only. At that instant he knew that all his doubts, even the impossibility of believing with his reason, of which he was aware in himself, did not in the least hinder his turning to God. All of that now floated out of his soul like dust. To whom was he to turn if not to Him in whose hands he felt himself, his soul, and his love?
The horse was not yet ready, but feeling a peculiar concentration of his physical forces and his intellect on what he had to do, he started off on foot without waiting for the horse, and told Kouzma to overtake him.
At the corner he met a night cabman driving hurriedly. In the little sledge, wrapped in a velvet cloak, sat Lizaveta Petrovna with a kerchief round her head. “Thank God! thank God!” he said, overjoyed to recognize her little fair face which wore a peculiarly serious, even stern expression. Telling the driver not to stop, he ran along beside her.
“For two hours, then? Not more?” she inquired. “You should let Pyotr Dmitrievitch know, but don’t hurry him. And get some opium at the chemist’s.”
“So you think that it may go on well? Lord have mercy on us and help us!” Levin said, seeing his own horse driving out of the gate. Jumping into the sledge beside Kouzma, he told him to drive to the doctor’s.
The doctor was not yet up, and the footman said that “he had been up late, and had given orders not to be waked, but would get up soon.” The footman was cleaning the lamp-chimneys, and seemed very busy about them. This concentration of the footman upon his lamps, and his indifference to what was passing in Levin, at first astounded him, but immediately on considering the question he realized that no one knew or was bound to know his feelings, and that it was all the more necessary to act calmly, sensibly, and resolutely to get through this wall of indifference and attain his aim.
“Don’t be in a hurry or let anything slip,” Levin said to himself, feeling a greater and greater flow of physical energy and attention to all that lay before him to do.
Having ascertained that the doctor was not getting up, Levin considered various plans, and decided on the following one: that Kouzma should go for another doctor, while he himself should go to the chemist’s for opium, and if when he came back the doctor had not yet begun to get up, he would either by tipping the footman, or by force, wake the doctor at all hazards.
At the chemist’s the lank shopman sealed up a packet of powders for a coachman who stood waiting, and refused him opium with the same callousness with which the doctor’s footman had cleaned his lamp chimneys. Trying not to get flurried or out of temper, Levin mentioned the names of the doctor and midwife, and explaining what the opium was needed for, tried to persuade him. The assistant inquired in German whether he should give it, and receiving an affirmative reply from behind the partition, he took out a bottle and a funnel, deliberately poured the opium from a bigger bottle into a little one, stuck on a label, sealed it up, in spite of Levin’s request that he would not do so, and was about to wrap it up too. This was more than Levin could stand; he took the bottle firmly out of his hands, and ran to the big glass doors. The doctor was not even now getting up, and the footman, busy now in putting down the rugs, refused to wake him. Levin deliberately took out a ten rouble note, and, careful to speak slowly, though losing no time over the business, he handed him the note, and explained that Pyotr Dmitrievitch (what a great and important personage he seemed to Levin now, this Pyotr Dmitrievitch, who had been of so little consequence in his eyes before!) had promised to come at any time; that he would certainly not be angry! and that he must therefore wake him at once.
The footman agreed, and went upstairs, taking Levin into the waiting room.
Levin could hear through the door the doctor coughing, moving about, washing, and saying something. Three minutes passed; it seemed to Levin that more than an hour had gone by. He could not wait any longer.
“Pyotr Dmitrievitch, Pyotr Dmitrievitch!” he said in an imploring voice at the open door. “For God’s sake, forgive me! See me as you are. It’s been going on more than two hours already.”
“In a minute; in a minute!” answered a voice, and to his amazement Levin heard that the doctor was smiling as he spoke.
“For one instant.”
“In a minute.”
Two minutes more passed while the doctor was putting on his boots, and two minutes more while the doctor put on his coat and combed his hair.
“Pyotr Dmitrievitch!” Levin was beginning again in a plaintive voice, just as the doctor came in dressed and ready. “These people have no conscience,” thought Levin. “Combing his hair, while we’re dying!”
“Good morning!” the doctor said to him, shaking hands, and, as it were, teasing him with his composure. “There’s no hurry. Well now?”
Trying to be as accurate as possible, Levin began to tell him every unnecessary detail of his wife’s condition, interrupting his account repeatedly with entreaties that the doctor would come with him at once.
“Oh, you needn’t be in any hurry. You don’t understand, you know. I’m certain I’m not wanted, still I’ve promised, and if you like, I’ll come. But there’s no hurry. Please sit down; won’t you have some coffee?”
Levin stared at him with eyes that asked whether he was laughing at him; but the doctor had no notion of making fun of him.
“I know, I know,” the doctor said, smiling; “I’m a married man myself; and at these moments we husbands are very much to be pitied. I’ve a patient whose husband always takes refuge in the stables on such occasions.”
“But what do you think, Pyotr Dmitrievitch? Do you suppose it may go all right?”
“Everything points to a favorable issue.”
“So you’ll come immediately?” said Levin, looking wrathfully at the servant who was bringing in the coffee.
“In an hour’s time.”
“Oh, for mercy’s sake!”
“Well, let me drink my coffee, anyway.”
The doctor started upon his coffee. Both were silent.
“The Turks are really getting beaten, though. Did you read yesterday’s telegrams?” said the doctor, munching some roll.
“No, I can’t stand it!” said Levin, jumping up. “So you’ll be with us in a quarter of an hour.”
“In half an hour.”
“On your honor?”
When Levin got home, he drove up at the same time as the princess, and they went up to the bedroom door together. The princess had tears in her eyes, and her hands were shaking. Seeing Levin, she embraced him, and burst into tears.
“Well, my dear Lizaveta Petrovna?” she queried, clasping the hand of the midwife, who came out to meet them with a beaming and anxious face.
“She’s going on well,” she said; “persuade her to lie down. She will be easier so.”
From the moment when he had waked up and understood what was going on, Levin had prepared his mind to bear resolutely what was before him, and without considering or anticipating anything, to avoid upsetting his wife, and on the contrary to soothe her and keep up her courage. Without allowing himself even to think of what was to come, of how it would end, judging from his inquiries as to the usual duration of these ordeals, Levin had in his imagination braced himself to bear up and to keep a tight rein on his feelings for five hours, and it had seemed to him he could do this. But when he came back from the doctor’s and saw her sufferings again, he fell to repeating more and more frequently: “Lord, have mercy on us, and succor us!” He sighed, and flung his head up, and began to feel afraid he could not bear it, that he would burst into tears or run away. Such agony it was to him. And only one hour had passed.
But after that hour there passed another hour, two hours, three, the full five hours he had fixed as the furthest limit of his sufferings, and the position was still unchanged; and he was still bearing it because there was nothing to be done but bear it; every instant feeling that he had reached the utmost limits of his endurance, and that his heart would break with sympathy and pain.
But still the minutes passed by and the hours, and still hours more, and his misery and horror grew and were more and more intense.
All the ordinary conditions of life, without which one can form no conception of anything, had ceased to exist for Levin. He lost all sense of time. Minutes—those minutes when she sent for him and he held her moist hand, that would squeeze his hand with extraordinary violence and then push it away—seemed to him hours, and hours seemed to him minutes. He was surprised when Lizaveta Petrovna asked him to light a candle behind a screen, and he found that it was five o’clock in the afternoon. If he had been told it was only ten o’clock in the morning, he would not have been more surprised. Where he was all this time, he knew as little as the time of anything. He saw her swollen face, sometimes bewildered and in agony, sometimes smiling and trying to reassure him. He saw the old princess too, flushed and overwrought, with her gray curls in disorder, forcing herself to gulp down her tears, biting her lips; he saw Dolly too and the doctor, smoking fat cigarettes, and Lizaveta Petrovna with a firm, resolute, reassuring face, and the old prince walking up and down the hall with a frowning face. But why they came in and went out, where they were, he did not know. The princess was with the doctor in the bedroom, then in the study, where a table set for dinner suddenly appeared; then she was not there, but Dolly was. Then Levin remembered he had been sent somewhere. Once he had been sent to move a table and sofa. He had done this eagerly, thinking it had to be done for her sake, and only later on he found it was his own bed he had been getting ready. Then he had been sent to the study to ask the doctor something. The doctor had answered and then had said something about the irregularities in the municipal council. Then he had been sent to the bedroom to help the old princess to move the holy picture in its silver and gold setting, and with the princess’s old waiting maid he had clambered on a shelf to reach it and had broken the little lamp, and the old servant had tried to reassure him about the lamp and about his wife, and he carried the holy picture and set it at Kitty’s head, carefully tucking it in behind the pillow. But where, when, and why all this had happened, he could not tell. He did not understand why the old princess took his hand, and looking compassionately at him, begged him not to worry himself, and Dolly persuaded him to eat something and led him out of the room, and even the doctor looked seriously and with commiseration at him and offered him a drop of something.
All he knew and felt was that what was happening was what had happened nearly a year before in the hotel of the country town at the deathbed of his brother Nikolay. But that had been grief—this was joy. Yet that grief and this joy were alike outside all the ordinary conditions of life; they were loop-holes, as it were, in that ordinary life through which there came glimpses of something sublime. And in the contemplation of this sublime something the soul was exalted to inconceivable heights of which it had before had no conception, while reason lagged behind, unable to keep up with it.
“Lord, have mercy on us, and succor us!” he repeated to himself incessantly, feeling, in spite of his long and, as it seemed, complete alienation from religion, that he turned to God just as trustfully and simply as he had in his childhood and first youth.
All this time he had two distinct spiritual conditions. One was away from her, with the doctor, who kept smoking one fat cigarette after another and extinguishing them on the edge of a full ashtray, with Dolly, and with the old prince, where there was talk about dinner, about politics, about Marya Petrovna’s illness, and where Levin suddenly forgot for a minute what was happening, and felt as though he had waked up from sleep; the other was in her presence, at her pillow, where his heart seemed breaking and still did not break from sympathetic suffering, and he prayed to God without ceasing. And every time he was brought back from a moment of oblivion by a scream reaching him from the bedroom, he fell into the same strange terror that had come upon him the first minute. Every time he heard a shriek, he jumped up, ran to justify himself, remembered on the way that he was not to blame, and he longed to defend her, to help her. But as he looked at her, he saw again that help was impossible, and he was filled with terror and prayed: “Lord, have mercy on us, and help us!” And as time went on, both these conditions became more intense; the calmer he became away from her, completely forgetting her, the more agonizing became both her sufferings and his feeling of helplessness before them. He jumped up, would have liked to run away, but ran to her.
Sometimes, when again and again she called upon him, he blamed her; but seeing her patient, smiling face, and hearing the words, “I am worrying you,” he threw the blame on God; but thinking of God, at once he fell to beseeching God to forgive him and have mercy.
He did not know whether it was late or early. The candles had all burned out. Dolly had just been in the study and had suggested to the doctor that he should lie down. Levin sat listening to the doctor’s stories of a quack mesmerizer and looking at the ashes of his cigarette. There had been a period of repose, and he had sunk into oblivion. He had completely forgotten what was going on now. He heard the doctor’s chat and understood it. Suddenly there came an unearthly shriek. The shriek was so awful that Levin did not even jump up, but holding his breath, gazed in terrified inquiry at the doctor. The doctor put his head on one side, listened, and smiled approvingly. Everything was so extraordinary that nothing could strike Levin as strange. “I suppose it must be so,” he thought, and still sat where he was. Whose scream was this? He jumped up, ran on tiptoe to the bedroom, edged round Lizaveta Petrovna and the princess, and took up his position at Kitty’s pillow. The scream had subsided, but there was some change now. What it was he did not see and did not comprehend, and he had no wish to see or comprehend. But he saw it by the face of Lizaveta Petrovna. Lizaveta Petrovna’s face was stern and pale, and still as resolute, though her jaws were twitching, and her eyes were fixed intently on Kitty. Kitty’s swollen and agonized face, a tress of hair clinging to her moist brow, was turned to him and sought his eyes. Her lifted hands asked for his hands. Clutching his chill hands in her moist ones, she began squeezing them to her face.
“Don’t go, don’t go! I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid!” she said rapidly. “Mamma, take my earrings. They bother me. You’re not afraid? Quick, quick, Lizaveta Petrovna....”
She spoke quickly, very quickly, and tried to smile. But suddenly her face was drawn, she pushed him away.
“Oh, this is awful! I’m dying, I’m dying! Go away!” she shrieked, and again he heard that unearthly scream.
Levin clutched at his head and ran out of the room.
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s all right,” Dolly called after him.
But they might say what they liked, he knew now that all was over. He stood in the next room, his head leaning against the door post, and heard shrieks, howls such as he had never heard before, and he knew that what had been Kitty was uttering these shrieks. He had long ago ceased to wish for the child. By now he loathed this child. He did not even wish for her life now, all he longed for was the end of this awful anguish.
“Doctor! What is it? What is it? By God!” he said, snatching at the doctor’s hand as he came up.
“It’s the end,” said the doctor. And the doctor’s face was so grave as he said it that Levin took the end as meaning her death.
Beside himself, he ran into the bedroom. The first thing he saw was the face of Lizaveta Petrovna. It was even more frowning and stern. Kitty’s face he did not know. In the place where it had been was something that was fearful in its strained distortion and in the sounds that came from it. He fell down with his head on the wooden framework of the bed, feeling that his heart was bursting. The awful scream never paused, it became still more awful, and as though it had reached the utmost limit of terror, suddenly it ceased. Levin could not believe his ears, but there could be no doubt; the scream had ceased and he heard a subdued stir and bustle, and hurried breathing, and her voice, gasping, alive, tender, and blissful, uttered softly, “It’s over!”
He lifted his head. With her hands hanging exhausted on the quilt, looking extraordinarily lovely and serene, she looked at him in silence and tried to smile, and could not.
And suddenly, from the mysterious and awful far-away world in which he had been living for the last twenty-two hours, Levin felt himself all in an instant borne back to the old every-day world, glorified though now, by such a radiance of happiness that he could not bear it. The strained chords snapped, sobs and tears of joy which he had never foreseen rose up with such violence that his whole body shook, that for long they prevented him from speaking.
Falling on his knees before the bed, he held his wife’s hand before his lips and kissed it, and the hand, with a weak movement of the fingers, responded to his kiss. And meanwhile, there at the foot of the bed, in the deft hands of Lizaveta Petrovna, like a flickering light in a lamp, lay the life of a human creature, which had never existed before, and which would now with the same right, with the same importance to itself, live and create in its own image.
“Alive! alive! And a boy too! Set your mind at rest!” Levin heard Lizaveta Petrovna saying, as she slapped the baby’s back with a shaking hand.
“Mamma, is it true?” said Kitty’s voice.
The princess’s sobs were all the answers she could make. And in the midst of the silence there came in unmistakable reply to the mother’s question, a voice quite unlike the subdued voices speaking in the room. It was the bold, clamorous, self-assertive squall of the new human being, who had so incomprehensibly appeared.
If Levin had been told before that Kitty was dead, and that he had died with her, and that their children were angels, and that God was standing before him, he would have been surprised at nothing. But now, coming back to the world of reality, he had to make great mental efforts to take in that she was alive and well, and that the creature squalling so desperately was his son. Kitty was alive, her agony was over. And he was unutterably happy. That he understood; he was completely happy in it. But the baby? Whence, why, who was he?... He could not get used to the idea. It seemed to him something extraneous, superfluous, to which he could not accustom himself.
At ten o’clock the old prince, Sergey Ivanovitch, and Stepan Arkadyevitch were sitting at Levin’s. Having inquired after Kitty, they had dropped into conversation upon other subjects. Levin heard them, and unconsciously, as they talked, going over the past, over what had been up to that morning, he thought of himself as he had been yesterday till that point. It was as though a hundred years had passed since then. He felt himself exalted to unattainable heights, from which he studiously lowered himself so as not to wound the people he was talking to. He talked, and was all the time thinking of his wife, of her condition now, of his son, in whose existence he tried to school himself into believing. The whole world of woman, which had taken for him since his marriage a new value he had never suspected before, was now so exalted that he could not take it in in his imagination. He heard them talk of yesterday’s dinner at the club, and thought: “What is happening with her now? Is she asleep? How is she? What is she thinking of? Is he crying, my son Dmitri?” And in the middle of the conversation, in the middle of a sentence, he jumped up and went out of the room.
“Send me word if I can see her,” said the prince.
“Very well, in a minute,” answered Levin, and without stopping, he went to her room.
She was not asleep, she was talking gently with her mother, making plans about the christening.
Carefully set to rights, with hair well-brushed, in a smart little cap with some blue in it, her arms out on the quilt, she was lying on her back. Meeting his eyes, her eyes drew him to her. Her face, bright before, brightened still more as he drew near her. There was the same change in it from earthly to unearthly that is seen in the face of the dead. But then it means farewell, here it meant welcome. Again a rush of emotion, such as he had felt at the moment of the child’s birth, flooded his heart. She took his hand and asked him if he had slept. He could not answer, and turned away, struggling with his weakness.
“I have had a nap, Kostya!” she said to him; “and I am so comfortable now.”
She looked at him, but suddenly her expression changed.
“Give him to me,” she said, hearing the baby’s cry. “Give him to me, Lizaveta Petrovna, and he shall look at him.”
“To be sure, his papa shall look at him,” said Lizaveta Petrovna, getting up and bringing something red, and queer, and wriggling. “Wait a minute, we’ll make him tidy first,” and Lizaveta Petrovna laid the red wobbling thing on the bed, began untrussing and trussing up the baby, lifting it up and turning it over with one finger and powdering it with something.
Levin, looking at the tiny, pitiful creature, made strenuous efforts to discover in his heart some traces of fatherly feeling for it. He felt nothing towards it but disgust. But when it was undressed and he caught a glimpse of wee, wee, little hands, little feet, saffron-colored, with little toes, too, and positively with a little big toe different from the rest, and when he saw Lizaveta Petrovna closing the wide-open little hands, as though they were soft springs, and putting them into linen garments, such pity for the little creature came upon him, and such terror that she would hurt it, that he held her hand back.
Lizaveta Petrovna laughed.
“Don’t be frightened, don’t be frightened!”
When the baby had been put to rights and transformed into a firm doll, Lizaveta Petrovna dandled it as though proud of her handiwork, and stood a little away so that Levin might see his son in all his glory.
Kitty looked sideways in the same direction, never taking her eyes off the baby. “Give him to me! give him to me!” she said, and even made as though she would sit up.
“What are you thinking of, Katerina Alexandrovna, you mustn’t move like that! Wait a minute. I’ll give him to you. Here we’re showing papa what a fine fellow we are!”
And Lizaveta Petrovna, with one hand supporting the wobbling head, lifted up on the other arm the strange, limp, red creature, whose head was lost in its swaddling clothes. But it had a nose, too, and slanting eyes and smacking lips.
“A splendid baby!” said Lizaveta Petrovna.
Levin sighed with mortification. This splendid baby excited in him no feeling but disgust and compassion. It was not at all the feeling he had looked forward to.
He turned away while Lizaveta Petrovna put the baby to the unaccustomed breast.
Suddenly laughter made him look round. The baby had taken the breast.
“Come, that’s enough, that’s enough!” said Lizaveta Petrovna, but Kitty would not let the baby go. He fell asleep in her arms.
“Look, now,” said Kitty, turning the baby so that he could see it. The aged-looking little face suddenly puckered up still more and the baby sneezed.
Smiling, hardly able to restrain his tears, Levin kissed his wife and went out of the dark room. What he felt towards this little creature was utterly unlike what he had expected. There was nothing cheerful and joyous in the feeling; on the contrary, it was a new torture of apprehension. It was the consciousness of a new sphere of liability to pain. And this sense was so painful at first, the apprehension lest this helpless creature should suffer was so intense, that it prevented him from noticing the strange thrill of senseless joy and even pride that he had felt when the baby sneezed.
Stepan Arkadyevitch’s affairs were in a very bad way.
The money for two-thirds of the forest had all been spent already, and he had borrowed from the merchant in advance at ten per cent discount, almost all the remaining third. The merchant would not give more, especially as Darya Alexandrovna, for the first time that winter insisting on her right to her own property, had refused to sign the receipt for the payment of the last third of the forest. All his salary went on household expenses and in payment of petty debts that could not be put off. There was positively no money.
This was unpleasant and awkward, and in Stepan Arkadyevitch’s opinion things could not go on like this. The explanation of the position was, in his view, to be found in the fact that his salary was too small. The post he filled had been unmistakably very good five years ago, but it was so no longer.
Petrov, the bank director, had twelve thousand; Sventitsky, a company director, had seventeen thousand; Mitin, who had founded a bank, received fifty thousand.
“Clearly I’ve been napping, and they’ve overlooked me,” Stepan Arkadyevitch thought about himself. And he began keeping his eyes and ears open, and towards the end of the winter he had discovered a very good berth and had formed a plan of attack upon it, at first from Moscow through aunts, uncles, and friends, and then, when the matter was well advanced, in the spring, he went himself to Petersburg. It was one of those snug, lucrative berths of which there are so many more nowadays than there used to be, with incomes ranging from one thousand to fifty thousand roubles. It was the post of secretary of the committee of the amalgamated agency of the southern railways, and of certain banking companies. This position, like all such appointments, called for such immense energy and such varied qualifications, that it was difficult for them to be found united in any one man. And since a man combining all the qualifications was not to be found, it was at least better that the post be filled by an honest than by a dishonest man. And Stepan Arkadyevitch was not merely an honest man—unemphatically—in the common acceptation of the words, he was an honest man—emphatically—in that special sense which the word has in Moscow, when they talk of an “honest” politician, an “honest” writer, an “honest” newspaper, an “honest” institution, an “honest” tendency, meaning not simply that the man or the institution is not dishonest, but that they are capable on occasion of taking a line of their own in opposition to the authorities.
Stepan Arkadyevitch moved in those circles in Moscow in which that expression had come into use, was regarded there as an honest man, and so had more right to this appointment than others.
The appointment yielded an income of from seven to ten thousand a year, and Oblonsky could fill it without giving up his government position. It was in the hands of two ministers, one lady, and two Jews, and all these people, though the way had been paved already with them, Stepan Arkadyevitch had to see in Petersburg. Besides this business, Stepan Arkadyevitch had promised his sister Anna to obtain from Karenin a definite answer on the question of divorce. And begging fifty roubles from Dolly, he set off for Petersburg.
Stepan Arkadyevitch sat in Karenin’s study listening to his report on the causes of the unsatisfactory position of Russian finance, and only waiting for the moment when he would finish to speak about his own business or about Anna.
“Yes, that’s very true,” he said, when Alexey Alexandrovitch took off the pince-nez, without which he could not read now, and looked inquiringly at his former brother-in-law, “that’s very true in particular cases, but still the principle of our day is freedom.”
“Yes, but I lay down another principle, embracing the principle of freedom,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch, with emphasis on the word “embracing,” and he put on his pince-nez again, so as to read the passage in which this statement was made. And turning over the beautifully written, wide-margined manuscript, Alexey Alexandrovitch read aloud over again the conclusive passage.
“I don’t advocate protection for the sake of private interests, but for the public weal, and for the lower and upper classes equally,” he said, looking over his pince-nez at Oblonsky. “But they cannot grasp that, they are taken up now with personal interests, and carried away by phrases.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch knew that when Karenin began to talk of what they were doing and thinking, the persons who would not accept his report and were the cause of everything wrong in Russia, that it was coming near the end. And so now he eagerly abandoned the principle of free-trade, and fully agreed. Alexey Alexandrovitch paused, thoughtfully turning over the pages of his manuscript.
“Oh, by the way,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “I wanted to ask you, some time when you see Pomorsky, to drop him a hint that I should be very glad to get that new appointment of secretary of the committee of the amalgamated agency of the southern railways and banking companies.” Stepan Arkadyevitch was familiar by now with the title of the post he coveted, and he brought it out rapidly without mistake.
Alexey Alexandrovitch questioned him as to the duties of this new committee, and pondered. He was considering whether the new committee would not be acting in some way contrary to the views he had been advocating. But as the influence of the new committee was of a very complex nature, and his views were of very wide application, he could not decide this straight off, and taking off his pince-nez, he said:
“Of course, I can mention it to him; but what is your reason precisely for wishing to obtain the appointment?”
“It’s a good salary, rising to nine thousand, and my means....”
“Nine thousand!” repeated Alexey Alexandrovitch, and he frowned. The high figure of the salary made him reflect that on that side Stepan Arkadyevitch’s proposed position ran counter to the main tendency of his own projects of reform, which always leaned towards economy.
“I consider, and I have embodied my views in a note on the subject, that in our day these immense salaries are evidence of the unsound economic assiette of our finances.”
“But what’s to be done?” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Suppose a bank director gets ten thousand—well, he’s worth it; or an engineer gets twenty thousand—after all, it’s a growing thing, you know!”
“I assume that a salary is the price paid for a commodity, and it ought to conform with the law of supply and demand. If the salary is fixed without any regard for that law, as, for instance, when I see two engineers leaving college together, both equally well trained and efficient, and one getting forty thousand while the other is satisfied with two; or when I see lawyers and hussars, having no special qualifications, appointed directors of banking companies with immense salaries, I conclude that the salary is not fixed in accordance with the law of supply and demand, but simply through personal interest. And this is an abuse of great gravity in itself, and one that reacts injuriously on the government service. I consider....”
Stepan Arkadyevitch made haste to interrupt his brother-in-law.
“Yes; but you must agree that it’s a new institution of undoubted utility that’s being started. After all, you know, it’s a growing thing! What they lay particular stress on is the thing being carried on honestly,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch with emphasis.
But the Moscow significance of the word “honest” was lost on Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“Honesty is only a negative qualification,” he said.
“Well, you’ll do me a great service, anyway,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, “by putting in a word to Pomorsky—just in the way of conversation....”
“But I fancy it’s more in Volgarinov’s hands,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“Volgarinov has fully assented, as far as he’s concerned,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, turning red. Stepan Arkadyevitch reddened at the mention of that name, because he had been that morning at the Jew Volgarinov’s, and the visit had left an unpleasant recollection.
Stepan Arkadyevitch believed most positively that the committee in which he was trying to get an appointment was a new, genuine, and honest public body, but that morning when Volgarinov had—intentionally, beyond a doubt—kept him two hours waiting with other petitioners in his waiting room, he had suddenly felt uneasy.
Whether he was uncomfortable that he, a descendant of Rurik, Prince Oblonsky, had been kept for two hours waiting to see a Jew, or that for the first time in his life he was not following the example of his ancestors in serving the government, but was turning off into a new career, anyway he was very uncomfortable. During those two hours in Volgarinov’s waiting room Stepan Arkadyevitch, stepping jauntily about the room, pulling his whiskers, entering into conversation with the other petitioners, and inventing an epigram on his position, assiduously concealed from others, and even from himself, the feeling he was experiencing.
But all the time he was uncomfortable and angry, he could not have said why—whether because he could not get his epigram just right, or from some other reason. When at last Volgarinov had received him with exaggerated politeness and unmistakable triumph at his humiliation, and had all but refused the favor asked of him, Stepan Arkadyevitch had made haste to forget it all as soon as possible. And now, at the mere recollection, he blushed.
“Now there is something I want to talk about, and you know what it is. About Anna,” Stepan Arkadyevitch said, pausing for a brief space, and shaking off the unpleasant impression.
As soon as Oblonsky uttered Anna’s name, the face of Alexey Alexandrovitch was completely transformed; all the life was gone out of it, and it looked weary and dead.
“What is it exactly that you want from me?” he said, moving in his chair and snapping his pince-nez.
“A definite settlement, Alexey Alexandrovitch, some settlement of the position. I’m appealing to you” (“not as an injured husband,” Stepan Arkadyevitch was going to say, but afraid of wrecking his negotiation by this, he changed the words) “not as a statesman” (which did not sound à propos), “but simply as a man, and a good-hearted man and a Christian. You must have pity on her,” he said.
“That is, in what way precisely?” Karenin said softly.
“Yes, pity on her. If you had seen her as I have!—I have been spending all the winter with her—you would have pity on her. Her position is awful, simply awful!”
“I had imagined,” answered Alexey Alexandrovitch in a higher, almost shrill voice, “that Anna Arkadyevna had everything she had desired for herself.”
“Oh, Alexey Alexandrovitch, for heaven’s sake, don’t let us indulge in recriminations! What is past is past, and you know what she wants and is waiting for—divorce.”
“But I believe Anna Arkadyevna refuses a divorce, if I make it a condition to leave me my son. I replied in that sense, and supposed that the matter was ended. I consider it at an end,” shrieked Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“But, for heaven’s sake, don’t get hot!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, touching his brother-in-law’s knee. “The matter is not ended. If you will allow me to recapitulate, it was like this: when you parted, you were as magnanimous as could possibly be; you were ready to give her everything—freedom, divorce even. She appreciated that. No, don’t think that. She did appreciate it—to such a degree that at the first moment, feeling how she had wronged you, she did not consider and could not consider everything. She gave up everything. But experience, time, have shown that her position is unbearable, impossible.”
“The life of Anna Arkadyevna can have no interest for me,” Alexey Alexandrovitch put in, lifting his eyebrows.
“Allow me to disbelieve that,” Stepan Arkadyevitch replied gently. “Her position is intolerable for her, and of no benefit to anyone whatever. She has deserved it, you will say. She knows that and asks you for nothing; she says plainly that she dare not ask you. But I, all of us, her relatives, all who love her, beg you, entreat you. Why should she suffer? Who is any the better for it?”
“Excuse me, you seem to put me in the position of the guilty party,” observed Alexey Alexandrovitch.
“Oh, no, oh, no, not at all! please understand me,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, touching his hand again, as though feeling sure this physical contact would soften his brother-in-law. “All I say is this: her position is intolerable, and it might be alleviated by you, and you will lose nothing by it. I will arrange it all for you, so that you’ll not notice it. You did promise it, you know.”
“The promise was given before. And I had supposed that the question of my son had settled the matter. Besides, I had hoped that Anna Arkadyevna had enough generosity....” Alexey Alexandrovitch articulated with difficulty, his lips twitching and his face white.
“She leaves it all to your generosity. She begs, she implores one thing of you—to extricate her from the impossible position in which she is placed. She does not ask for her son now. Alexey Alexandrovitch, you are a good man. Put yourself in her position for a minute. The question of divorce for her in her position is a question of life and death. If you had not promised it once, she would have reconciled herself to her position, she would have gone on living in the country. But you promised it, and she wrote to you, and moved to Moscow. And here she’s been for six months in Moscow, where every chance meeting cuts her to the heart, every day expecting an answer. Why, it’s like keeping a condemned criminal for six months with the rope round his neck, promising him perhaps death, perhaps mercy. Have pity on her, and I will undertake to arrange everything. Vos scrupules....”
“I am not talking about that, about that....” Alexey Alexandrovitch interrupted with disgust. “But, perhaps, I promised what I had no right to promise.”
“So you go back from your promise?”
“I have never refused to do all that is possible, but I want time to consider how much of what I promised is possible.”
“No, Alexey Alexandrovitch!” cried Oblonsky, jumping up, “I won’t believe that! She’s unhappy as only an unhappy woman can be, and you cannot refuse in such....”
“As much of what I promised as is possible. Vous professez d’être libre penseur. But I as a believer cannot, in a matter of such gravity, act in opposition to the Christian law.”
“But in Christian societies and among us, as far as I’m aware, divorce is allowed,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Divorce is sanctioned even by our church. And we see....”
“It is allowed, but not in the sense....”
“Alexey Alexandrovitch, you are not like yourself,” said Oblonsky, after a brief pause. “Wasn’t it you (and didn’t we all appreciate it in you?) who forgave everything, and moved simply by Christian feeling was ready to make any sacrifice? You said yourself: if a man take thy coat, give him thy cloak also, and now....”
“I beg,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch shrilly, getting suddenly onto his feet, his face white and his jaws twitching, “I beg you to drop this ... to drop ... this subject!”
“Oh, no! Oh, forgive me, forgive me if I have wounded you,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, holding out his hand with a smile of embarrassment; “but like a messenger I have simply performed the commission given me.”
Alexey Alexandrovitch gave him his hand, pondered a little, and said:
“I must think it over and seek for guidance. The day after tomorrow I will give you a final answer,” he said, after considering a moment.
Stepan Arkadyevitch was about to go away when Korney came in to announce:
“Who’s Sergey Alexyevitch?” Stepan Arkadyevitch was beginning, but he remembered immediately.
“Ah, Seryozha!” he said aloud. “Sergey Alexyevitch! I thought it was the director of a department. Anna asked me to see him too,” he thought.
And he recalled the timid, piteous expression with which Anna had said to him at parting: “Anyway, you will see him. Find out exactly where he is, who is looking after him. And Stiva ... if it were possible! Could it be possible?” Stepan Arkadyevitch knew what was meant by that “if it were possible,”—if it were possible to arrange the divorce so as to let her have her son.... Stepan Arkadyevitch saw now that it was no good to dream of that, but still he was glad to see his nephew.
Alexey Alexandrovitch reminded his brother-in-law that they never spoke to the boy of his mother, and he begged him not to mention a single word about her.
“He was very ill after that interview with his mother, which we had not foreseen,” said Alexey Alexandrovitch. “Indeed, we feared for his life. But with rational treatment, and sea-bathing in the summer, he regained his strength, and now, by the doctor’s advice, I have let him go to school. And certainly the companionship of school has had a good effect on him, and he is perfectly well, and making good progress.”
“What a fine fellow he’s grown! He’s not Seryozha now, but quite full-fledged Sergey Alexyevitch!” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, smiling, as he looked at the handsome, broad-shouldered lad in blue coat and long trousers, who walked in alertly and confidently. The boy looked healthy and good-humored. He bowed to his uncle as to a stranger, but recognizing him, he blushed and turned hurriedly away from him, as though offended and irritated at something. The boy went up to his father and handed him a note of the marks he had gained in school.
“Well, that’s very fair,” said his father, “you can go.”
“He’s thinner and taller, and has grown out of being a child into a boy; I like that,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch. “Do you remember me?”
The boy looked back quickly at his uncle.
“Yes, mon oncle,” he answered, glancing at his father, and again he looked downcast.
His uncle called him to him, and took his hand.
“Well, and how are you getting on?” he said, wanting to talk to him, and not knowing what to say.
The boy, blushing and making no answer, cautiously drew his hand away. As soon as Stepan Arkadyevitch let go his hand, he glanced doubtfully at his father, and like a bird set free, he darted out of the room.
A year had passed since the last time Seryozha had seen his mother. Since then he had heard nothing more of her. And in the course of that year he had gone to school, and made friends among his schoolfellows. The dreams and memories of his mother, which had made him ill after seeing her, did not occupy his thoughts now. When they came back to him, he studiously drove them away, regarding them as shameful and girlish, below the dignity of a boy and a schoolboy. He knew that his father and mother were separated by some quarrel, he knew that he had to remain with his father, and he tried to get used to that idea.
He disliked seeing his uncle, so like his mother, for it called up those memories of which he was ashamed. He disliked it all the more as from some words he had caught as he waited at the study door, and still more from the faces of his father and uncle, he guessed that they must have been talking of his mother. And to avoid condemning the father with whom he lived and on whom he was dependent, and, above all, to avoid giving way to sentimentality, which he considered so degrading, Seryozha tried not to look at his uncle who had come to disturb his peace of mind, and not to think of what he recalled to him.
But when Stepan Arkadyevitch, going out after him, saw him on the stairs, and calling to him, asked him how he spent his playtime at school, Seryozha talked more freely to him away from his father’s presence.
“We have a railway now,” he said in answer to his uncle’s question. “It’s like this, do you see: two sit on a bench—they’re the passengers; and one stands up straight on the bench. And all are harnessed to it by their arms or by their belts, and they run through all the rooms—the doors are left open beforehand. Well, and it’s pretty hard work being the conductor!”
“That’s the one that stands?” Stepan Arkadyevitch inquired, smiling.
“Yes, you want pluck for it, and cleverness too, especially when they stop all of a sudden, or someone falls down.”
“Yes, that must be a serious matter,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch, watching with mournful interest the eager eyes, like his mother’s; not childish now—no longer fully innocent. And though he had promised Alexey Alexandrovitch not to speak of Anna, he could not restrain himself.
“Do you remember your mother?” he asked suddenly.
“No, I don’t,” Seryozha said quickly. He blushed crimson, and his face clouded over. And his uncle could get nothing more out of him. His tutor found his pupil on the staircase half an hour later, and for a long while he could not make out whether he was ill-tempered or crying.
“What is it? I expect you hurt yourself when you fell down?” said the tutor. “I told you it was a dangerous game. And we shall have to speak to the director.”
“If I had hurt myself, nobody should have found it out, that’s certain.”
“Well, what is it, then?”
“Leave me alone! If I remember, or if I don’t remember?... what business is it of his? Why should I remember? Leave me in peace!” he said, addressing not his tutor, but the whole world.
Stepan Arkadyevitch, as usual, did not waste his time in Petersburg. In Petersburg, besides business, his sister’s divorce, and his coveted appointment, he wanted, as he always did, to freshen himself up, as he said, after the mustiness of Moscow.
In spite of its cafés chantants and its omnibuses, Moscow was yet a stagnant bog. Stepan Arkadyevitch always felt it. After living for some time in Moscow, especially in close relations with his family, he was conscious of a depression of spirits. After being a long time in Moscow without a change, he reached a point when he positively began to be worrying himself over his wife’s ill-humor and reproaches, over his children’s health and education, and the petty details of his official work; even the fact of being in debt worried him. But he had only to go and stay a little while in Petersburg, in the circle there in which he moved, where people lived—really lived—instead of vegetating as in Moscow, and all such ideas vanished and melted away at once, like wax before the fire. His wife?... Only that day he had been talking to Prince Tchetchensky. Prince Tchetchensky had a wife and family, grown-up pages in the corps, ... and he had another illegitimate family of children also. Though the first family was very nice too, Prince Tchetchensky felt happier in his second family; and he used to take his eldest son with him to his second family, and told Stepan Arkadyevitch that he thought it good for his son, enlarging his ideas. What would have been said to that in Moscow?
His children? In Petersburg children did not prevent their parents from enjoying life. The children were brought up in schools, and there was no trace of the wild idea that prevailed in Moscow, in Lvov’s household, for instance, that all the luxuries of life were for the children, while the parents have nothing but work and anxiety. Here people understood that a man is in duty bound to live for himself, as every man of culture should live.
His official duties? Official work here was not the stiff, hopeless drudgery that it was in Moscow. Here there was some interest in official life. A chance meeting, a service rendered, a happy phrase, a knack of facetious mimicry, and a man’s career might be made in a trice. So it had been with Bryantsev, whom Stepan Arkadyevitch had met the previous day, and who was one of the highest functionaries in government now. There was some interest in official work like that.
The Petersburg attitude on pecuniary matters had an especially soothing effect on Stepan Arkadyevitch. Bartnyansky, who must spend at least fifty thousand to judge by the style he lived in, had made an interesting comment the day before on that subject.
As they were talking before dinner, Stepan Arkadyevitch said to Bartnyansky:
“You’re friendly, I fancy, with Mordvinsky; you might do me a favor: say a word to him, please, for me. There’s an appointment I should like to get—secretary of the agency....”
“Oh, I shan’t remember all that, if you tell it to me.... But what possesses you to have to do with railways and Jews?... Take it as you will, it’s a low business.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch did not say to Bartnyansky that it was a “growing thing”—Bartnyansky would not have understood that.
“I want the money, I’ve nothing to live on.”
“You’re living, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but in debt.”
“Are you, though? Heavily?” said Bartnyansky sympathetically.
“Very heavily: twenty thousand.”
Bartnyansky broke into good-humored laughter.
“Oh, lucky fellow!” said he. “My debts mount up to a million and a half, and I’ve nothing, and still I can live, as you see!”
And Stepan Arkadyevitch saw the correctness of this view not in words only but in actual fact. Zhivahov owed three hundred thousand, and hadn’t a farthing to bless himself with, and he lived, and in style too! Count Krivtsov was considered a hopeless case by everyone, and yet he kept two mistresses. Petrovsky had run through five millions, and still lived in just the same style, and was even a manager in the financial department with a salary of twenty thousand. But besides this, Petersburg had physically an agreeable effect on Stepan Arkadyevitch. It made him younger. In Moscow he sometimes found a gray hair in his head, dropped asleep after dinner, stretched, walked slowly upstairs, breathing heavily, was bored by the society of young women, and did not dance at balls. In Petersburg he always felt ten years younger.
His experience in Petersburg was exactly what had been described to him on the previous day by Prince Pyotr Oblonsky, a man of sixty, who had just come back from abroad:
“We don’t know the way to live here,” said Pyotr Oblonsky. “I spent the summer in Baden, and you wouldn’t believe it, I felt quite a young man. At a glimpse of a pretty woman, my thoughts.... One dines and drinks a glass of wine, and feels strong and ready for anything. I came home to Russia—had to see my wife, and, what’s more, go to my country place; and there, you’d hardly believe it, in a fortnight I’d got into a dressing gown and given up dressing for dinner. Needn’t say I had no thoughts left for pretty women. I became quite an old gentleman. There was nothing left for me but to think of my eternal salvation. I went off to Paris—I was as right as could be at once.”
Stepan Arkadyevitch felt exactly the difference that Pyotr Oblonsky described. In Moscow he degenerated so much that if he had had to be there for long together, he might in good earnest have come to considering his salvation; in Petersburg he felt himself a man of the world again.
Between Princess Betsy Tverskaya and Stepan Arkadyevitch there had long existed rather curious relations. Stepan Arkadyevitch always flirted with her in jest, and used to say to her, also in jest, the most unseemly things, knowing that nothing delighted her so much. The day after his conversation with Karenin, Stepan Arkadyevitch went to see her, and felt so youthful that in this jesting flirtation and nonsense he recklessly went so far that he did not know how to extricate himself, as unluckily he was so far from being attracted by her that he thought her positively disagreeable. What made it hard to change the conversation was the fact that he was very attractive to her. So that he was considerably relieved at the arrival of Princess Myakaya, which cut short their tête-à-tête.
“Ah, so you’re here!” said she when she saw him. “Well, and what news of your poor sister? You needn’t look at me like that,” she added. “Ever since they’ve all turned against her, all those who’re a thousand times worse than she, I’ve thought she did a very fine thing. I can’t forgive Vronsky for not letting me know when she was in Petersburg. I’d have gone to see her and gone about with her everywhere. Please give her my love. Come, tell me about her.”
“Yes, her position is very difficult; she....” began Stepan Arkadyevitch, in the simplicity of his heart accepting as sterling coin Princess Myakaya’s words “tell me about her.” Princess Myakaya interrupted him immediately, as she always did, and began talking herself.
“She’s done what they all do, except me—only they hide it. But she wouldn’t be deceitful, and she did a fine thing. And she did better still in throwing up that crazy brother-in-law of yours. You must excuse me. Everybody used to say he was so clever, so very clever; I was the only one that said he was a fool. Now that he’s so thick with Lidia Ivanovna and Landau, they all say he’s crazy, and I should prefer not to agree with everybody, but this time I can’t help it.”
“Oh, do please explain,” said Stepan Arkadyevitch; “what does it mean? Yesterday I was seeing him on my sister’s behalf, and I asked him to give me a final answer. He gave me no answer, and said he would think it over. But this morning, instead of an answer, I received an invitation from Countess Lidia Ivanovna for this evening.”
“Ah, so that’s it, that’s it!” said Princess Myakaya gleefully, “they’re going to ask Landau what he’s to say.”
“Ask Landau? What for? Who or what’s Landau?”
“What! you don’t know Jules Landau, le fameux Jules Landau, le clairvoyant? He’s crazy too, but on him your sister’s fate depends. See what comes of living in the provinces—you know nothing about anything. Landau, do you see, was a commis in a shop in Paris, and he went to a doctor’s; and in the doctor’s waiting room he fell asleep, and in his sleep he began giving advice to all the patients. And wonderful advice it was! Then the wife of Yury Meledinsky—you know, the invalid?—heard of this Landau, and had him to see her husband. And he cured her husband, though I can’t say that I see he did him much good, for he’s just as feeble a creature as ever he was, but they believed in him, and took him along with them and brought him to Russia. Here there’s been a general rush to him, and he’s begun doctoring everyone. He cured Countess Bezzubova, and she took such a fancy to him that she adopted him.”
“Yes, as her son. He’s not Landau any more now, but Count Bezzubov. That’s neither here nor there, though; but Lidia—I’m very fond of her, but she has a screw loose somewhere—has lost her heart to this Landau now, and nothing is settled now in her house or Alexey Alexandrovitch’s without him, and so your sister’s fate is now in the hands of Landau, alias Count Bezzubov.”